Victoria Winters hasn’t had a lot to do lately what with the scramble to restore the show’s ratings having made Dark Shadows the “What Happened to Bill Malloy?” show. Most recently she’s had lunch at the Collinsport Inn restaurant consisting of a two-week-old lobster roll and year-old clam chowder and in that one episode also evaded yet another of Burke Devlin’s equally stale but persistent dinner invites. One has to wonder whether she would have accepted Burke’s offer even if she were free, but as it happens tonight she’s having dinner as Maggie’s guest at the Evans cottage.
First mentioned back in episode 46, Victoria’s visit at the Evans cottage is a key story element in the original series outline written by Art Wallace, Shadows on the Wall. Ostensibly for David’s benefit so that she could perhaps reach out to her young charge and encourage his creative talents by getting him to meet a real artist like Sam Evans, this occasion would instead become a decisive turning point in the Burke Devlin story arc where Roger, increasingly fearful that Sam would likely reveal to her his guilt in the accident of ten years ago that sent Burke to prison on a manslaughter conviction, brings about his own sudden downfall after dragging Victoria out to the edge of Widow’s Hill to voice an explanation, but who instead when startled by the presence of David observing them from a hidden vantage point nearby goes over the edge of the cliff himself.
That was the original story vision slated for the first half or so of that initial thirteen-week episode cycle, as outlined during the preproduction stage in the series bible. Dark Shadows: The First Year, the long out-of-print yet authoritative source guide for these first 210 episodes, has the following rather telling bit of trivia for when the casting decisions had become finalized: “…During Alexandra Moltke’s screen test, her resemblance to a younger Joan Bennett became apparent, furthering the story idea that Vicki was the long-lost daughter of Elizabeth” (Dark Shadows: The First Year, by Nina Johnson and O. Crock [summary writers], Blue Whale Books, 2006; p. 14).
Today’s episode thus presents a striking bit of information to deepen the mystery surrounding the identity of Victoria’s parentage; whereas the series outline was written with Paul Stoddard as the father and the identity of the mother unknown, perhaps one of the many summer tourists who would account for a seasonal influx to boost the Collinsport population figures by upwards of fifty percent, here in episode 60 a maternal link is strongly implied, more in keeping with the casting impressions acquired postproduction. Further along through the fall of 1966, this new direction toward revealing the truth of Victoria’s background as connected maternally with Collinwood will be reinforced when she finds an old ledger sheet in the closed-off wing from the days when many servants were employed to run the great estate; yes, the mystery of Victoria Winters’ origins was to have been solved by that old reliable standby of the big house/mystery story twist: the butler did it!
Episode 60 is therefore a milestone, in that it gets to the heart of the very mystery as first presented that night on the train, the quest of a young woman in search of herself and the lives that become intertwined with her own along the way. In so doing, this episode becomes one of just a handful of the most significant moments in the story of Victoria Winters, one to which this blog will consistently return as a clear and revealing reference toward solving the mystery even as we look back from the far-off space year of 1968, when Alexandra Moltke at last leaves the show and the character is finally written out, with the central element to her story, the truth of her family background, left forever dangling even after attempting two cast replacements in quick succession.
Despite this, there are still enough details presented in today’s episode, as well as a couple more episodes to come in 1966, to piece together the likely answers from what is first implied here so profoundly, the maternal link that connects the life of Victoria Winters to those up at Collinwood, a trail of clues that begins at the Evans cottage when she happens on a portrait of her possible past.